Your Take: Author who calls 'spiritual but not religious' a cop-out responds to comments
October 2nd, 2012
04:04 PM ET

Your Take: Author who calls 'spiritual but not religious' a cop-out responds to comments

By Alan Miller, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Alan Miller is director of The New York Salon and co-founder of London's Old Truman Brewery. He is speaking at The Battle of Ideas at London's Barbican in October.

By Alan Miller, Special to CNN

I wrote a Belief Blog piece on Sunday called "My Take: 'I'm spiritual but not religious' is a cop-out," which has received more than 8,000 comments, many taking up key points I raised.

My assessment is that the wider disorientation of Western society, the decreasing respect for many institutions and the disdain for humans alongside what Christopher Lasch has termed a "culture of narcissism" has played out both among the "spiritual but not religious" identifiers as well as among many "new atheists." Lots of the comments bear that out.

Some commenters accused me of outdated and dangerous dogmatism in sticking up for traditional religion. A commenter whose handle is spectraprism spoke to this view:

“The problem this author advocates is that of thinking anyone has the ONE COMPLETE TRUE WAY- and everything and everyone else therefore NOT advocating it completely must be wrong. This is dogmatic, archaic, leads to extremism and is completely incorrect. Not being challenged into blindly following whatever scripture is not showing softness of any kind - it's showing you have a brain to draw your own personal conclusions that work and make sense to YOU.”

I don't happen to believe in a religious "one true way" and in fact am not religious myself. My comments and observations are based on an increasingly common phenomenon in the past 20 years.

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It is telling, though, that this and many other comments converge on dogmatism and extremism and juxtapose them with the notion that an individual choice is immune to any of that. These comments speak to my point that not wanting to be held accountable to any set of ideas or principles is a very popular position among the “spiritual but not religious."

In recent decades, the demise of the notion that there can be universal truths and the ascendancy of relativism and the new preaching of "many truths" and the idea that "all truths are equally valid" has clearly had significant impact on that identity.

The disenchantment with belief and a commitment to some wider authority has also had an impact on the self-described new atheists, who are furious that anyone could have the audacity to believe in something bigger than themselves.

The end of the big ideas of liberalism and socialism left a vacuum in society. Atheism used to be a small component of bigger movements in society. Ironically, today what defines many new atheists is a shared outlook with “spiritual but not religious” views.

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New atheists define themselves in negative terms, as not believing without any broader sense of a positive alternative, while those identifying with a "spiritual but not religious" outlook define themselves as not religious rather than according to the strong convictions that they do have.

This commenter summarized the sentiments that lots of others express on my piece:

Gina Hamilton
So I should believe in God because Bach did and it was the basis for his work? What Miller fails to understand is that most of us started out with a religious tradition in our lives, and gradually grew up and out of it. I can say clearly that I am a recovering Catholic who at the age of 16 became a humanist and freethinker, but that from the acceptance of the lack of a god proceeds a sense of the oneness of the universe and my place in it. It's not touchy-feely; it's science, and yet it is profoundly spiritual as well. Perhaps Miller, one day, will have this sort of understanding.

It is so interesting how so many people now use the therapeutic language of recovery - "recovering" from organized religion. The group American Atheists describes anguish and toil as the "first step" of "coming out," making the analogy with gays coming out the "closet," as though somehow atheists are oppressed today in America.

The therapeutic outlook is of far more concern with regard to human autonomy and freedom than organized religion. The idea is that humans are all "damaged goods" and in need of constant counseling and instruction.

These comments take off on that theme:

Paul Dykstra
Now you need to do an article on ..... "The dangers of being religious, but displaying NO spiritually aware behavior at all".....

Major religions such as Christianity and Islam have proven to be nothing but damaging and vile to our world. I reject this notion that we have to "take a side" on the matter of a higher power. The basic truth about it all is that no matter how much we read or try to decipher life's mysteries we were never meant to have concrete proof of what put us into existence. What is the point in living if you know all the answers? I am spiritual but not religious because religion is a disease of manipulation and control. I can believe in a higher power while also believing that it was never meant for me to understand this higher power until AFTER I die.

honesty is paramount
As a scientist, I am neither religious nor spiritual. I definitely know right from wrong and one of the things that positively defines me: when I don't know the answer to something, I indicate "I don't know". Don't EVER call that indecisive or "wishy-washy".

It is interesting how "spirituality" seems to be thought of as "clean" and unimpeded by problems.

Dustin calls religion a "disease" - once again we see the therapeutic language. Striving for an understanding of the world is an important and essential human attribute, yet so many of the comments have reiterated a generality about "spiritualism" and "my choice" that it seems to endorse the point I made that what seems so paramount is in a determination not to be "labeled" or dictated to by an authority.

So what is left? The superstition and mysticism of some "oneness" and often a therapeutic notion of being "spiritual."

Here’s a comment from someone who identifies as 51yo:

I always had a hard time with the guy in the front of the church, he's a guy... I'm a guy, what's the difference? He will one day be proven as a womanizer or worse, I will never walk that path. After another guy (Constantine) put his hands all over the Bible, I have little faith it is any more true than words my neighbor might come up with. Like you said, I search for truth and read as much as I can, but the final analysis is my own; I'm not tied to someone else's redistribution of "facts" or their interpretation of great stories. I can do that and be a good person without the trappings of a traditional place of worship, or someone telling me to do something they are incapable of.

The commenter 51y0 doesn't want to be tied to anyone else's "facts." While we all have to work out our things in life, I am interested to know what “spiritual but not religious" facts are.

It can seem that on the one hand there's a reluctance to commit to advocating anything and also that words can end up losing any meaning if one simply says something to the affect of "spiritual means it's right for me." Nick says it can mean a lot of different things to people:

Nick Heise
The author of this piece, though he admits that calling the spiritual-but-not-religious movement a movement would be incorrect, still wrote this entire piece as these people were a united group whose thoughts and beliefs could be analyzed and criticized as a group. I'm no genius, but these seems to make his entire position quite flawed.

I put myself out there as a point of reference since, as I'm talking about my own person, I don't have to rely on complete conjecture like the above article. Yes, I have used the expression "I'm spiritual, not religious." But what does that mean to me? Surely it can mean a lot to different people, just like the same scripture of the Bible can be inspiring to many Christians in countless different ways. To me, saying that I'm spiritual but not religious highlights that I'm not a person who believes in the existence of God as a fact, but neither do I believe in his nonexistence as a fact. It's my assertion of the respect and awe that I have in the face of a universe that I can't understand, which contains forces (perhaps a God) that I can never prove to exist or not exist. For me, it's not an unwillingness to think and make a decision - it's the result of years of thinking and consideration with the conclusion that I haven't yet gathered enough information to make a definitive choice.

I’ll end with this comment:

If you look at the definition of religious – even atheists are religious, they just strongly believe in NO God...this is from Webster's Online Dictionary: Definition of RELIGIOUS 1: relating to or manifesting faithful devotion to an acknowledged ultimate reality or deity.

Maybe it's just that people are tired of being fanatical about church – and want to go back to a more open an honest approach to beliefs? Maybe the stigma of being a church member now has such a negative impact on how people think of you that people don't want to admit they go to church? Being spiritual means you believe in something (which I think is better than nothing) – the alternative is NOT only being an atheist....

Organized religious beliefs (even going back into ancient times) have caused more death and destruction than any other organization in the world ... and it's done in the name of (whomever your beliefs say to) – and has been since the beginning of mankind! Maybe choosing to say you're "spiritual" means you don't want to be associated with all the chaos and destruction – and maybe organized religions need to rethink their controls on individuals.

This remark will chime with many – the new atheists among them - who believe that being "spiritual" means you don't want to be associated with all the "chaos and destruction."

It strikes me that having an opt-out plan should have something more than simply a negative, whether it's a "spiritual" one or a "new atheist" negative. We live in an age where many are disillusioned with institutions and humans generally, yet not so evident is a positive alternative.

Thank you for the comments. The event we held last night, "I'm Not Religious – I'm Spiritual" benefited from some of them.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Alan Miller.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Opinion • Spirituality

soundoff (1,789 Responses)
  1. Matt

    Saying "I'm spiritual but not religious" is just a nicer way of saying "I don't want to have a religious discussion with you and I find your choice of topic needlessly invasive." It's not a cop out, it's a deflection.

    October 6, 2012 at 12:14 pm |
  2. more2bits

    Darwin and Einstein were right. Brilliant scientists. Realistic theologists.

    There is no god it is all a myth by greedy people thousands of years who realized how gullible mankind was and wrote a fe books (bibles, korans) to try and wrest control of mens minds by brain washing–the same technique used by Hitler–peer pressure.

    In almost every case religious people look down on those who don't belong–that is the 'pressure' they use to get people to join them. Hitler did the same exact thing. To evil ends yes–but the same technique.

    October 6, 2012 at 11:17 am |
    • Susie

      Actually what you are discribin sounds like a good definition of what you are trying to do with your comment. Ad Hominem attack, religious people must be stupid (peer pressure to conform to your thinking by labelling those you disagree with as manipulated). And aligning your beliefs with two really smart people...another bit of false logic. How do you explain all the brilliant scientists who do believe in God? The fact is, really smart people have come to realize that science and the senses are limited by individual perception. Your arrogant response to this article belies your lack of exposure to the last 50 years of scientific and philosophical thought,

      October 7, 2012 at 8:45 pm |
  3. Dan Brayall

    It seems to me that the author is so convinced of his pet theory/opinion that he misses the point of many comments. As a former Chrstian and current agnostic I'd say "spiritual but not religious" is a pretty superficial label and doesn't really tell you anythinig about the character of the individual . That's also true of the labels of specific religions. If someone identifies as Christian, Muslim, Jew, or whatever, that initial superficial label doesn't tell you anything about them as a person. Are they honest, compassionette, kind, charitible, or obnoxious opinionated zealots? You have to look beyond that first superficial label to find out.
    There's several rather insulting points the author assumes about the people who might use that term . Not willing to take responsibility? utter nonsense. Personally, and from what I read in the comments, it's about taking personal responsibility , not only for your beliefs but your day to day actions and interactions. You don't have to believe Jesus rose from the dead , or Mohammend was a prophet to value truth, the search and committment to truth, compassion , kindness, love, and the ongoing journey of sorting those things out and trying to live them in your day to day life.
    I can still go to a service and find it rewarding and meaningful, but I cannot join a specific denomination because ultimately I just can't accpet all of thier doctrine. That's not being wishy washy. It's a matter of personal intergrity. The positive alternative the author claims doesn't exist is defining and living those universal values of kindness, courage, compassion, a comittment to truth, without having to embrace dogma you don't believe in. Respecting the individual's personal journey means respecting their choice to belong to any religious organization they choose, and respecting the choice to not belong. The mistake I made as a Christian was thinking that the path that was working for me at the time must be the right path for everyone, because that's what we're taught. It's Jesus and only Jesus. Now I recognize that those universal principles are also present in a a lot of religions ,and not dependent on any religion.

    October 6, 2012 at 9:51 am |
    • Cahaya

      Good post, and good points made. You've captured many of the same thoughts I had about this blog op/ed.

      I've spent a lifetime studying and reading about many of the world's faiths and have come to the simple conclusion that I cannot fully accept the doctrine, tenets and practices of any one of them, although there are some faiths that I can agree with some of their basic principles. And it was a struggle in a way, to realize that I really don't *have* to belong to any specific religion as a believer in spirituality (although there is societal pressure to do so, atheists aside), following my own heart, mind and conscience, based on my 55 years of knowledge and personal experience. I'm happy with it now, but it took a long time to get to this point.

      October 6, 2012 at 10:09 am |
  4. citizen bob

    damocles: maybe spirituality is an adaptive plus because it may have co-evolved with pro-social behavior such as sharing, cooperation, sense of community, I don't know. But, feelings, and spirituality is a "feeling", evolved by natural selection, so it must, like other feelings, been adaptive for our hominid ancestors, or it would have been selected out.
    there is a lot of people interested in what is healthy based on what our ancestors evolved with, such as diet (bunch of books on that), naturo-pathic healing, dealing with "un-natural stress" like office politics, and so on. The underlying idea is what we evolved with is what we were "wired" for both psychologically and physically. So, spirituality may be "natural" and hence, healthy. We may have simply evolved that way, for what ever benefit. But, the capability is present.
    Now with your rathful deities, that's religion, not necessarily spirituality.

    October 6, 2012 at 9:16 am |
    • ram

      How interesting Mr. Miller seems to feel that those who don't follow an organized religion, but who say they are spiritual, are narcissistic. That is pretty funny considering he is the one writing an article on his views that claim others who don't believe as he does are narcissistic. Perhaps your experience is that those not in organized religions don't want to be held accountable, but that is not my experience at all. The people I know who do what they feel is right and describe themselves as spiritual aren't that way at all, and as my child pointed out to me recently, "I don't want to do good things because I'm afraid someone will punish me. I want to do them because it helps someone and it feels better than when I don't do the right thing". This is an eight year old who is spiritual and not religious, and this child was confused when her friend started telling her that she couldn't be friends with her unless she was Christian. We teach our children that it's not just what you do when people are watching or you will get caught that defines who you are, but what you do when you know no one would ever know and no one but you is watching what choice you make. We teach them that you have to live with your choices and that when you put negative energy out it harms others and ultimately you as well, and that when you put positive energy out you make a difference whether no one sees it or not. It isn't about some deity watching you to judge you, but about the big picture and how you contribute or take away from the universe and those around you. We teach them to consider the consequences of their actions and how they will affect those around them now and later as well. How is that narcissistic?

      Mr. Miller, you might have read responses, but apparently you didn't get what some were saying. My path is my path and not yours, and I can't, nor do I want to, control your choices or mandate what God you worship or how you choose to celebrate or suffer in your life. I would never assume that my way was better than yours or the "right" one, and my goal each day is to live the most compassionate, positive, and peaceful way that I can. I don't always achieve my goals, but if I can leave this life feeling that I ended up contributing in positive ways to the world and learned something each day then I lived a good life. If I never set foot in a church or prayed to a god, but if I added positives to the world and didn't take them away I would be fine with that. I am seriously accountable, but just because I don't feel accountable to a god...especially your God...why would you assume I don't feel accountable for my actions? Is that a bit presumptuous on your part to assume that atheists or those who say they are spiritual, but not religious, are narcissistic? It is a generalized statement and actually a bit funny when you are lumping so many people together and assigning them motivations based on your own interpretation of what they say, but you appear to neglect the idea that you could be wrong and perhaps it is what happens in a person's heart that matters more than what church they attend.

      And really...who cares where or if a person attends church or feels "religious"? Do you seriously think that indicates maturity or whether they are honest and compassionate? I personally would trust a person I knew who behaved ethically because his personal belief system was such that he wouldn't want to harm others or be less than honest in his life before I would trust one who went to church, but treated those around him as potential converts to his religion. How about you go where you think is right on Sundays and I will as well, and I won't try to explain how wrong your choice is. I hope you will at some point be able to give me the same courtesy.

      October 6, 2012 at 10:02 am |
  5. Blaine

    Bad enough CNN put this clown on the first time, but to give him a second opportunity to save his poorly written and argued first article...God help us (or help ourselves)!

    October 6, 2012 at 8:47 am |
  6. Aimhere

    What this all boils down to is that everyone wants to have a world-view that is right FOR THEM. One that leaves THAT INDIVIDUAL feeling happy and fulfilled. Whether that involves a god[s] or not, or any particular religious sect, is immaterial.

    The trouble with ORGANIZED religion is that it all-too-frequently attempts to impose its doctrine, boilerplate-style, to its members, as though that doctrine was a one-size-fits-all solution to filling people's spiritual needs. But this is a fallacy; no doctrine can possibly fulfill ANYone's needs completely, because everyone is unique. Why else would there be so many religions and sects and offshoots and outright cults in the world today, if people were happy with whatever religion their parents happened to belong to?

    October 6, 2012 at 7:34 am |
  7. citizen bob

    I think what's interesting is not that people are spiritual or not, but rather that they are capable of spirituality. That capability is unique to humans (as far as we can tell). So, somehow that ability evolved in us and gave us a cutting edge over the other ape-things on the ancient savannas. I think its reasonable to say that the capability for spirituality exists because it was somehow adaptive to our environment. I don't think scientists state that our neurology changed significantly since the past 200,000 or so years. So, is spirituality a part of who we are and evolved in us because it was favored by natural selection? Therefore it is still important in us as a species?
    (wow, my coffee is strong this morning)

    October 6, 2012 at 7:13 am |
    • Damocles

      I fail to see how being spritual would be an edge from an evolution standpoint. It's not like we need to call down a deity's wrath on an animal we happen to be hunting. A belief in a deity would be a flaw because it is a means of dividing one group from another.

      October 6, 2012 at 7:38 am |
    • raforrester

      Regardless of whether you can see an advantage to being spiritual, I'll bet you can't find a reference to a single tribe living close to nature that does not have a shaman or medicine man with spiritual rituals. Seems like there must be some advantage to it. Part of spirituality is feeling respect for the earth and nature, and it seems like that alone could help people avoid destroying their environment. Seems like that could be an important factor in surviving, a factor that western culture has tossed away.

      October 6, 2012 at 1:54 pm |
    • tallulah13

      Common belief is useful for creating unity in a community, and supernatural enti.ties are useful props when trying to explain the unknown. Because humans have a deep sense of self-interest, there is always someone ready to take advantage. Thus we have shamans and priests.

      October 6, 2012 at 2:08 pm |
    • Milton Platt

      It is because of our unique ability to reason and think about the future and about death and life in abstract terms that we came up to set up straw men to explain whatever was unexplainable. We wanted to think we had answers to explain everything we could not explain otherwise. Knowledge of the universe has gradually filled in many of those blanks and over the years all religions have had to continually change and adapt to what we have learned. Religion even changes dramatically sometimes between cultures.

      October 6, 2012 at 7:04 pm |
  8. Haime52

    I concur with the author . I know many people who attend "non-demnominational" churches because, while they want to think they are believers, do not wish to be held to a standardized doctine or code of behavior. The same for many is true for the subjects of the base article, for the most part. Atheists, I find, are most opposed to the idea that there might be a higher power that they may have to answer to and that they themselves are not turly answerable only to themselves alone.
    In the end there is "heap plenty" of venom, on all sides, to go around.

    October 6, 2012 at 5:34 am |
    • Haime52

      oops. My slip is showing. That's doctrine.

      October 6, 2012 at 5:37 am |
    • Dan Brayall

      Doctrine, or dogma , and code of behaviour, are very different. In my experience even those who belong to churches often fail to live up to the code of behaviour they are being taught. People who are spiritual but not religious set their own code of behaviour because they've learned to trust their own heart, mind, and conscience , when it comes to behaviour. They may still pary or meditate for clarity and guidence. We simply think that as adults we don't need a pastor or priest to tell us what we should do.

      October 6, 2012 at 9:59 am |
    • Cahaya

      " I know many people who attend "non-demnominational" churches because, while they want to think they are believers, do not wish to be held to a standardized doctine or code of behavior."

      People who are spiritual but not religious (adhering to a specific religion or world faith) are indeed believers. And while it may be true that these people do not wish to be held to a standardized doctrine (none of which they can completely agree with), they certainly do have a code of behavior in line with their spiritual beliefs.

      You casually mention those spiritualists who go to "non-denominational churches", but you've left out those who prefer not to go to a "church" at all.

      October 6, 2012 at 10:00 am |
    • Milton Platt

      How does "non denominational" work? Wouldn't that just actually be another denomination? I'm just sayin'

      October 6, 2012 at 7:15 pm |
  9. Sarah

    What if Spirituality IS the missing link to unite ALL...ultimately a common goal toward World Peace?

    October 6, 2012 at 4:25 am |
    • tallulah13

      What if common sense and simply human empathy were the missing link to world peace?

      October 6, 2012 at 2:10 pm |
  10. Cahaya

    Really? Because I may be spiritual but not religious, this means that I am unwilling to take a real position? This means that I don't take a stand on what I believe? That means that I don't think and I don't try? Are you kidding me?

    I believe that we people are spiritual beings living human lives. I believe in a higher spiritual being that pervades this universe and the world around us, including within us. I am amazed and awed by this creation that we live in and by the gift of life and sentience that we have been given. But must I adopt a world faith to believe these things? Must I choose one faith or another if none of them correspond to my understanding of this universe and our spirituality?

    I have spent much of my life, all 55 years of it, in search of truth and understanding, reading and studying about many of the worlds faiths throughout my life. I have lived and worked abroad outside the U.S. where I have been known people of many different faiths and worldviews. And who am I to say who is "right" and who is "wrong"?

    And who are you to say whether those of us who chose to live a spiritual life with very definite, positive principles, whether we are "right" or we are "wrong"? Really?

    Sorry to say, your blog entry is in itself a cop-out with your narrow view and lack of understanding of human spirituality. Look and listen again with an open mind and an open heart, my dear kin.

    October 6, 2012 at 1:14 am |
  11. Alfuso

    Born Again Agnostic is working well for me.

    October 6, 2012 at 1:12 am |
    • Dan Brayall

      Same here. Born again agnostic. I lean toward believeing there is something beyond this fleeting physical life but that question will ne resolved in due time. In the meantime I have this day to decide what I value and what I will contribute to the world and the people I encounter.

      October 6, 2012 at 9:21 am |
  12. JT

    "Spiritual but not religious" is, ultimately, meaningless.. Spin it however you want but that's the bottom line.

    October 5, 2012 at 9:56 pm |
    • Cahaya

      Religious but not spiritual is equally meaningless.

      To be a spiritual person does not require the person to adopt a specific religion and adhere to its tenets. Why should a spiritual person be compelled to adopt a religion when none of them fit in with the persons' spiritual views and worldview?

      October 6, 2012 at 12:32 am |
    • Dan Brayall

      Have you also noticed that, I'm a Christian, or I'm a Muslim, or whatever, tells you nothing about that person's character as an individual. Doesn't that render those labels meaningless as well?

      October 6, 2012 at 9:22 am |
    • Milton Platt

      I'm white but not caucasian.......

      I have a brother in law who is fond of telling people he is a non practicing Catholic. I have never understood how that is possible, either.

      October 6, 2012 at 7:23 pm |
  13. kenchandammit

    I think it's a good thing that god made Jesus Chinese because he was able to save waaay more people that way than had he made Jesus middle-eastern or some such. Thank you god! You're so awesome!

    October 5, 2012 at 7:46 pm |
    • old ben

      lol. i love the alias too.

      October 5, 2012 at 7:51 pm |
    • william

      So, the other 80% of the people on the planet simply go to Hell after they die, all basically to where they were born? Yeah, right.

      October 5, 2012 at 9:14 pm |
  14. Bill

    I agree with the Dalai Lama when he said, "If you have to tell us you're spiritual, you're not".

    October 5, 2012 at 6:12 pm |
    • Cahaya

      Where did you source this quote, Bill? I have read his books and I also do not find any such quote attributable to him. The only google hit on this quote is your comment.

      October 6, 2012 at 12:35 am |
    • Dan Brayall

      I'm going to assume that most people don't walk around introducing themselves and adding "I'm spiritual but not religious" It's more likely a response to a specific question about their beliefs.

      October 6, 2012 at 10:02 am |
  15. Linda

    I wasn't brought up in any particular religion. I always assumed my parents believed in God I guess. I converted to Catholicism when I was 18 but really couldn't not use birth control after I was married since I'm not all that crazy about taking care of children so I drifted into the Baptist church then the Church of Christ. When I was 40 it occurred to me that to believe that Mary could get pregnant from the Holy Spirit hovering over her was ridiculous. Most sane people don't believe in ghosts so why believe in a spirit capable of such power as impregnating a woman? I think each religion has a source they believe is infallible (the Pope, the Bible, the Quran, the Torah, Joseph Smith, etc.) because people have to believe an authority higher than themselves can bust their chops if they aren't "good." Simply respect one another. That would solve alot of problems, especially the religious people of the world who kill other religious people or nonbelievers.

    October 5, 2012 at 6:02 pm |
  16. Mark

    How can I use the Bible to "uplift" people, when people are so offended by the very message that I find uplifting????

    I find it uplifting to know that Christ died for my sins, and that if I put my faith in Him, my sins can be forgiiven. Now, whereas I find that message uplifting, others find it offensive, exlusionary, and bigotted.

    I think what you mean is, why can't I use to the Bible to make people feel good about themselves. I can not, nor will I try to do that when God, through the Bible goes to such great lengths to show people that they AREN'T "good". The bible repeats that message over and over. That's the very reason Christ died.

    The central theme of the Bible is that mankind is sinful, hopeless, and lost, but that Christ made a way for us through His death on the Cross.

    October 5, 2012 at 4:07 pm |
    • citizen bob

      I never understood the idea of Christ died for our sins. Its more like He died because we sin. We humans can be a murderous lot. He taught love, don't pay into the religious money machine, give only lip service to the government, equality of gender and ethnicity, down play materialism, don't fall into consumerism, basically things that the monied and powerful need to maintain their power and wealth. So, to shut Him up, they trumped up charges of sedition and executed Him.

      October 5, 2012 at 6:15 pm |
    • jb

      Into Santa also? Do not put your beliefs on me.

      October 5, 2012 at 6:15 pm |
    • James Ison

      It's not the bible or it's message I find offensive. It's the people who push it on me and try to legislate it on me as if their sense of morality should be mine. Believe what you want find meaning with what you want but don't try to tell me what I can or cannot do with my body or who I should love. Religion has no place in the United States government. period.

      October 5, 2012 at 7:18 pm |
    • Dan Brayall

      The central theme of the NT and Jesus IMHO is that we are all children of the same father, or part of the same body, and should treat one another accordingly. Regardless of what we give lip service to and what traditions we value, what ultoimately matters is that our actions are a true reflection of what's in our hearts and minds. Our actions don't reflect love, forgiveness, respect, compassion and charity toward others then the labels of religion or non religion, don't matter at all.

      October 6, 2012 at 10:10 am |
    • raforrester

      Here's what you can do if you want to use the Bible to uplift people. Feed the hungry. Shelter the homeless. Be a peacemaker. Be merciful. Heal the sick. Comfort those who mourn. Love your neighbor. Give all you own to the poor. Hunger and thirst for righteousness. Be a good Samaritan. Don't judge others. Be an example of truthfulness and integrity. Forgive others their trespasses and debts. Make beautiful music in praise of God. Don't "correct" people who interpret "Follow Me" differently from you.

      Consider the lilies of the field, the ones who don't toil and don't spin, the ones who let God take care of them, and yet are dressed finer than Solomon. OK, are you considering them? What you can do is, don't condemn them.

      October 6, 2012 at 2:21 pm |
  17. Kel

    I'm a critical thinker who is humble enough to admit I don't know everything. I'm a skeptic, a pragmatist, a realist. I rely on logic and reasoning. I can safely say that I care about what's wrong and what's right. But the spiritual vs. religious is that people become fed up with organized religions, particularly when its leaders and members act like hypocrites. But you don't need either in order to be a good human being.

    October 5, 2012 at 3:57 pm |
  18. Reality

    Putting an easy end to 6000 years of stupity with a single PowerPoint slide:





    Added details upon request.

    October 5, 2012 at 3:57 pm |
  19. UncleJohn

    Some people dance to their own music, others stand in line or in squares and have the steps called out to them. At least they're both dancing. They could be watching sitting on the couch watching reality TV.

    October 5, 2012 at 3:05 pm |
  20. raforrester

    For many years I was spiritual not religious, because I didn't want to "have to" believe any particular dogma without investigating for myself. I didn't want to recite the "Apostles Creed" which is really just a loyalty oath. I could feel free to learn about how in the 3rd century the small "catholic" sect (the ones who said you don't really have to change your heart or soul, just say you believe in Jesus and you will be saved) sold out to Constantine, and in return obtained great power which they then used to massacre the gnostic Christians (the ones who said you have to know yourself, change yourself, and knew how to help each other do it). The modern Bible is the result of that power play, and somehow it manages to leave out all the hard inner work that is required to become a real Christian.

    I wanted to just do what Jesus said, and forget about all the unprovable speculation about whether He was actually God or part God and part man, or just a very inspired man. And I wanted to do what the Buddha said, which is actually pretty similar.

    I came to believe that either Jesus was one of the greatest psychologists ever to live, or he was divinely inspired, but either way, it was a radical change to say "love your neighbor" and "turn the other cheek" in those days. He said the Kingdom of God is coming, that it is within us, and that we can all build it. And when I realized that, I realized that no matter who or what Jesus was, no matter what I believe about God, I still could devote myself to building the Kingdom of God, not an actual kingdom, not ruled by religious doctrines, but a society in which all people are accepted, the rich and the poor and everyone in between are responsible for their own lives, science and medicine and art and education flourish, people can pursue their own variety of meaning and purpose, and it respects the environment and justice and individual accomplishments.

    So I say to everyone, atheist and spiritual person and religious person alike, forget your differences regarding the details. We can all agree on building the Kingdom of God within each of us and around us, in which we all are accepted and loved and can learn and grow psychologically and spiritually, no matter how you define spiritual growth.

    October 5, 2012 at 2:47 pm |
    • Mark

      In my book, you personify "spiritual but not religious". A sprinke of this, a dash of that, a little Budha on the side, and some Jesus for desert. A hodge podge of beliefs.

      "Spiritual but not religious" basically boils down to one thing. People don't want to be accountable. Mainly, they don't want to be accountable to God. There's a word for it, and it's called humanism. Man is "god". I'm my own boss. The don't
      as-sociate with "organized" religion. They say it's because only the weak minded need it, but in reality it's because if they chose to affiliate with a Baptist, or Catholic, or Methodist, or Lutheran church they might be confronted with some ideas that make them feel uncomfortable.

      You can talk prayer, or meditation, or worship all day long with these people, as long as you don't bring up Jesus or the Cross. That's the end of the conversation. That's when people get angry. Why? Becasue Jesus point blank says...."I'm the way, the truth, and the life, and NO ONE comes to the Father but by me".

      You can be spiritual all you want. You can be religious all you want. Heck, you can be both at the same time if you want, but the fact is that if you die in your sins and you stand before God without Jesus' blood covering your sins, all the spirituality in the world won't mean anything. The Bible makes it very plain, God will say to them....."depart from me, I NEVER KNEW YOU".

      October 5, 2012 at 3:19 pm |
    • raforrester

      Mark, I am very comfortable talking with Baptists, Catholics, Mormons, Buddhists, Hindus, and anyone else, and I am happy to hear all their beliefs and explore whether they are true or not. And I consider myself to be a follower of Jesus, even though I have no idea in what way He is divine, nor do I think it is important as long as I follow what he teaches. I am willing to say, "I don't know the nature of Jesus or God," and yet follow Him. I am also a follower of Buddha, because I believe his teachings are similar to those of Jesus. In the Bible Jesus also says that sins against the Son can be forgiven. Sins against the Father can be forgiven. But sins against the Holy Spirit are not forgiven. So instead of using the bible to condemn people, perhaps you could use the bible to praise and uplift people.

      October 5, 2012 at 3:37 pm |
    • FFoghorn

      If you build that place, it might be beautiful. However, it will be the Kingdom of You. A Kingdom, by definition, is about as narcissistic a structure as can be.

      October 5, 2012 at 7:05 pm |
    • FFoghorn

      "I'm the way, the truth, and the life, and NO ONE comes to the Father but by me".

      You know who else said this: Adolph Hitler, Charles Manson and David Koresh.

      No one believes what the bible says except Christians! So why cite that ancient comic book to an Atheist or Spiritualist?

      October 5, 2012 at 7:12 pm |
    • kenchandammit

      @Mark – Yep. That's what someone told you. In fact, all of christianity, and for that matter, all of every religion on earth is comprised of rules, tenets, and promises that someone said was true. Think about it! Every single thing that you know about your religion is something that someone told you. Have a nice day.

      October 5, 2012 at 7:39 pm |
    • raforrester

      FFoghorn, I don't think the Kingdom of God is meant to literally be a kingdom. Maybe a representative democracy, but without political parties. Unless something better is invented instead. And I will obviously not be the only person building it. Everyone who lives there will be building it. I think the internet is a huge step in the direction of bringing everyone together, not in uniformity but in understanding.

      October 6, 2012 at 3:21 am |
    • citizen bob

      I'm not sure, but I think Jesus would have liked what you wrote.

      October 6, 2012 at 6:58 am |
    • raforrester

      Thanks, Bob.

      October 6, 2012 at 2:55 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.